Showing posts from March, 2009

It's so hard to find good help these days

The Obama Administration's woes in filling political appointees are getting a lot of attention in the media. However, it should be noted that Obama is doing better than average when compared to previous presidents . Much of the problem is that Obama's ethical standards are so stringent that qualified candidates with relevant experience are forced to screen themselves out of consideration. For example, Obama's ban on lobbyists sounded great in theory, but often people with the right skills do have lobbyist gigs on the side. There's a good story at NPR on this, too. Plus, there's a decent amount of scalp-hunting at work here that ultimately goes against our national interest - as Megan McArdle puts it , This new tradition of bulldogging every appointee in the hope of embarrassing the president has to stop. We should be focusing on whether or not the nominee can do the job, not whether there is some small breach of an onerous regulation in his history that ca

Global warming: is relative humidity increasing or decreasing?

I am not a global warming expert but I do follow the debates with reasonable attention to detail. I think my scientific training provides me the tools to assess the scientific claims to a reasonable degree even though I lack the training to go much deeper than abstracts, figures, and conclusions of papers on the topic. Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit (the global warming skeptic's counter-site to the Real Climate project) points to a new paper that purports to show that the relative humidity of the upper atmosphere is declining rather than increasing as one might expect based on climate models. The implication pertains to how much feedback there is with increase in atmospheric CO2 - a positive feedback (increasing relative humidity) would imply greater temperature change per doubling of CO2 concentration increase, ie making global warming worse, whereas a negative feedback would imply the opposite, that global warming is less of a threat. Note that the debate is only about the

Do the Marines respect the Commander in Chief?

One of the strategies of the conservative right has been to try and politicize the military. The confuse their own military fetish and partisan self-interest with genuine patriotism and the public good (because in their view, they hold a monopoly on both). In so doing, they disrespect the very troops they allegedly revere. For example, the Bush Administration paid great lip-service to veterans on the field but left them hanging out to dry when they got home . Now, the right is taking their insult to the military to new levels, by promoting this video which allegedly shows that the military does not respect Obama the way they did Bush: At, the bloggers crow that this is the "Semper Fi Zone" which is about as gross an insult to the professional ethics of the Marine Corps as you can imagine. In the fevered imaginings of the conservative right, a military that shows a preference for one political party over another is actually a desirable thing, instead of the